Every day 2,500 children in India die due to malnutrition, primarily caused by poverty, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday, resulting in the court expressing its anguish.
Such a figure has been brought to the notice of Supreme Court for the first time. "Around 8.8 lakh children die every year due to malnutrition of the total child deaths of 17.8 lakh every year," the Colin Gonsalves, counsel for the petitioner People's Union for Civil Liberties said.
"There are said to be 3,000 malnourishment deaths in the country. It may not be 3000 but even if it is three deaths in a country like ours, it is a matter of grave concern," a bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said.
In India, 2.4 crore children are born each year of which 17.8 lakh die because of different reasons before they cross the age of five, of these 46% die due to malnutrition.
The annual death of malnutrition related death in India is more than the total live births in the UK and one-third of newborns in the US.Although malnutrition is linked to poverty and poor public distribution system of subsidised foodgrains, the government informed the court that that 50 lakh tonnes of additional foodgrains will be distributed to poor in the next two weeks. The court said the food grains should be provided on subsidized rates.
The Planning Commission also explained its rationale for defining 37.2 % of India as poor as desired by the court and said it will have to be updated considering the inflationary changes.
The commission said only those spending less than Rs20 per day on consumption in urban areas and Rs15 in rural areas in 2004-05 have been categorized as poor.
"The figure is unrealistic," a senior commission official said adding that a person in Delhi cannot survive on Rs20 a day. The commission has admitted that the amount could be significantly higher if updated to reflect the price rise since 2004-05.
That figure will be known only at end of 2011 when National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) submits its large sample size survey on consumption trends in India. The commission has defined 37.2 % of Indians as poor in 2010 on basis of 2004-05 NSS data.